Does not Wisdom cry, and understanding put forth her voice? She stands in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. She cries at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors. Unto you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of man. O you simple, understand Wisdom; and you fools, be of an understanding heart.
—Proverbs 1:34 RE
Note: The prior parts of this series provide vital background necessary to understand this part. If you have not red the prior parts already, I highly recommend you do so before reading this installment.
Now that we’ve traced the development of our scriptures, from Adam through the Book of Mormon, it’s time to take a closer look at the developments since the Book of Mormon was published. There’s a lot to consider, and an endpoint to reach, so I’ll just hit a few highlights.
- Joseph Smith received a number of revelations concurrent with the ongoing restoration of the gospel. Many of those revelations were edited, changed, expanded, or otherwise tampered with before they were published.
- The Book of Mormon was largely ignored, resulting in the LDS church being condemned by the Lord.
- Joseph Smith labored to produce a corrected version of the Bible, with important truths restored. It was never published in its fulness until now.
- After Joseph’s death, Brigham Young produced a “revelation” that authorized and promoted polygamy. He falsely claimed it came from Joseph.
- The Book of Mormon underwent a number of iterations, including edits and alterations over the years.
- The Lectures on Faith, which formed the “Doctrine” backbone of the Doctrine and Covenants were arbitrarily removed from the canon by a committee without authority.
It’s clear from all of the above, that despite the flood of light and truth that entered the world through Joseph Smith, people did to scripture what people *always* do to scripture. They tampered with it, altered it, attempted to “improve” it, and otherwise messed it up. The universal truth to discover is this: The word of God is almost NEVER safe in the hands of mortals. God entrusts scripture to those who have been in his presence and gotten their directions and revelations directly from him. All others, regardless of good intentions, produce disaster and destruction.
More than 170 years after Joseph died, the required number of generations had passed, and the Lord began efforts again to complete the unfinished restoration. He inspired a number of individuals to attempt a recovery effort—sifting through the tattered remnants of scripture and attempting to reclaim whatever could reliably be attributed to Joseph Smith, while removing that which could not. Due to the neglect of prior generations, immense effort was required to reclaim what could be reclaimed, restored and corrected.
And the heavens took notice.
It is SO incredibly rare that mortals on earth care enough about scripture to undertake a recovery effort, and do so under the direction of a bona-fide member of the Holy Order, that the instances of this ever happening can be counted on one hand.
Though the effort received the best work and tireless attention of the laborers involved, they were still mortal and could only go so far. And yet, the Lord accepted the effort—not because it was perfect, but because it was undertaken with care and pure intent. At last there were a people on earth again who valued God’s word!
Ultimately the project was presented to the Lord for his approval, along with an admission that the effort was inadequate. The request was made for the Lord to add what was missing, remove what didn’t belong, or correct what was inaccurate. The Lord did these things, and pronounced, “The work that has been done is acceptable and sufficient for the labor now underway.” The Lord also cautioned, “you do not understand the glory to be revealed unto my covenant people.” (T&C 177:1)
The Lord then proceeded to take ownership of the scriptures he had approved:
These scriptures are sent forth to be my warning to the world, my comfort to the faithful, my counsel to the meek, my reproof to the proud, my rebuke to the contentious, and my condemnation of the wicked. They are my invitation to all mankind to flee from corruption, repent and be baptized in my name, and prepare for the coming judgment. (T&C 177:3)
For those keeping score at home, that’s a seven-fold ownership claim as the Lord made clear. These are NOT “our” scriptures. They are his.
The Lord went further and offered a covenant to those who would agree to “receive the scriptures approved by the Lord as a standard to govern you in your daily walk in life, to accept the obligations established by the Book of Mormon as a covenant, and to use the scriptures to correct yourselves and to guide your words, thoughts, and deeds[.]” (T&C 158:3)
This is an astonishing development, and one that should not escape our notice. It was the careful treatment of scripture by mortals that inclined the Lord to offer his covenant, and that covenant is utterly dependent upon, and tied to, the scriptures he approved. Such an event is an immense blessing and mercy on his part, and we ought to be humbled to the dust by his generosity. When we consider that the Lord is, even now, condescending to speak to us and deal with us through a covenant, we should resolve to be far more humble, obedient, and careful than prior generations who tarnished the brightness of scripture and incurred the Lord’s wrath.
After the Lord had provided his changes to the scriptures, accepted them, and claimed them as his own, some good-hearted people with the best of intentions began promoting the idea that we could, and should, improve the Lord’s scriptures by voting to canonize various and sundry items we found appealing. Oddly, much of what was suggested for canonization consisted of items that already existed when the Lord made additions to the canon himself, pronounced the scriptures acceptable, and claimed them as his own. In other words, he had every opportunity to add the suggested items, and he declined to do so. Do we know better than the Lord what ought to be added? I don’t think so.
I honestly don’t blame anyone for seeking to “improve” the scriptures. After all, during the recovery portion of the effort, the body of believers was given opportunity to submit and vote on additions. But that phase of the project has passed. At that time it was “our” project. Now it is his. I don’t believe we have the right to change his scriptures by our vote. If there’s somewhere that Wisdom delegated the responsibility for scriptural changes to the body of believers, I’m not aware of it. Everything I can find in scripture testifies that God takes responsibility for scripture, and mankind suffers overwhelming temptation to tamper with God’s efforts.
How is this not taking his name in vain? How does this not violate the 1st, 2nd and 3rd commandments? Who’s word is scripture? Who is responsible for creating, transmitting and guarding the holy canon? (See part 6). What makes scripture, scripture? Why do we think we have any right to add to or take away from his word for which he has vouched, and which he has claimed as his own? If we alter his scriptures, are they “his” anymore? Since the covenant requires dependence on scripture, if we alter scripture, have we altered the covenant? And by doing so have we changed the ordinance? And does that ever end well?
The purpose of this series has been to juxtapose God’s marvelous power to provide scripture with Satan’s constant attempts to meddle with scripture. If we are to err, I suggest we err on the side of leaving the scriptures in God’s hands, not our own.
Of course, we expect more light and truth to pour forth from heaven. The canon is most assuredly open. Many have considered that we should therefore develop a “mechanism” by which we can, as a people, “canonize” new scripture. I would offer a couple of questions and suggestions in this regard.
Can we think of a time when the canon was not “open?” In other words has there ever been a point at which the Lord was NOT in Wisdom capable of adding to scripture?
And if the canon has always been “open” in the Lord’s eyes, is our situation so unique that we need to have a method in place of canonizing what he chooses to add? Is his choice to add it enough, or does he require our permission?
Given mankind’s irresistible urge to tamper with scripture, might such a mechanism, if implemented, be just as likely put to poor use as good? Could such a mechanism be co-opted to appease the demands of the froward, forceful, or discontent? Would it tempt pretenders to present phony revelations for canonization? There is great precedent for all of the above.
Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen, and why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson — that the rights of the Priesthood are inseparably connected with the Powers of Heaven and that the Powers of Heaven cannot be controlled nor handled, only upon the principles of righteousness…We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Hence many are called, but few are chosen. (T&C 139:5)
Notice a couple of things in the above. First, “Priesthood” has a capital P. This means something significant, having to do with the Holy Order and who stands at the head of the human family. Second, the nature and disposition of all men, who have “a little authority” as they suppose, is to exercise dominion in UNrighteousness. Yet the Powers of Heaven can only be controlled or handled upon the principles of righteousness. The upshot is that if we think we have a little authority over the scriptures, we are sure to mess them up. The rights of the Priesthood (capital P) are best left to the Priesthood (capital P). (Please don't take that prior statement as a sexist endorsement of male priesthood. The Holy Order in this form requires a man and a woman.)
Is it our responsibility to EVER offer up our suggestions or preferences for how the Lord might “improve” his scriptures? In my opinion, the Lord is perfectly capable of adding what is needed, and is FAR better informed about the subject than we can hope to be. We have millennia of history to teach us this lesson, and if we fail to learn it, the error is our own. We may find ourselves kicking against the pricks, persecuting the saints and fighting against God.
The Gods have shown themselves willing and able to add to scripture—even quite recently. If something needs to be added to the official canon, I believe they will tell us through the Holy Order, just as they have always done, rather than by us telling them what to do. Do we want God to rule over us, or do we expect the religion of the Fathers will be a democracy where we can impose our will on God by taking a vote?
There’s one other item I must mention, and I hope to tread lightly and not give offense. This series is meant to teach, not offend.
At one point, there was an effort—born of good intent, to be sure—to canonize certain portions of a talk that were attributed to Heavenly Mother. Some took to calling the passages, “The Wisdom Text,” taking her name and appending it to the effort. The desire to “honor” Heavenly Mother was expressed as justification for taking this step. In light of what we’ve discussed in this series, I would ask, can we EVER honor Heavenly Mother by tampering with her scriptures? Is our wisdom greater than hers? Do we honor her by attempting to usurp her as the weaver and giver of scripture? Is it wisdom in God that we do this, or is it supposed wisdom in ourselves?
Perhaps we should consider the warning given elsewhere in that same talk:
If you welcome this discussion, then take care that you do not, as ancient Israel did, burn incense, pour out drink offerings, and bake cakes to a Being who has never invited you to do so. She has invited you to worship God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. If you would like to honor Her, then accept Her testimony and look to Jesus Christ alone for redemption and salvation. (Denver Snuffer, “Our Divine Parents,” p 36)
If we would make an offering to her, it ought to be a broken heart, a contrite spirit, faith in her son, and strict obedience to his word.
I hope the things I’ve written here will give us all cause to reconsider whether it is wise that we undertake efforts to add to scripture, or create a mechanism to do so. Perhaps we are better served by getting on with the business of governing our lives by the scriptures our Divine Parents have given us, rather than trying to convince them to give us more, or suggesting what they ought to add.
It’s truly a miracle that we have the canon we do, and that it resulted in the Lord condescending to offer us a covenant. It is a sign that God yet speaks, is finishing his work, and has a people he is working with and putting on display for the world to see.
Signs of God’s direct involvement and direction attend every exodus he directs to any promised land. These signs include the miraculous, like a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night, correct records like the Plates of Brass, precious metals like gold, animal skins to make sacred space, and sacred relics, like the Urim and Thummim, the brass serpent, Aaron’s rod and Moses’s staff.
The exodus from the Garden of Eden, though little spoken of in scripture, contained the same elements.
Lehi’s exodus likewise enjoyed such signs, including the pillar of fire, Laban’s sword and armor, gold and silver, sacred records and a curious brass ball called the Liahona that took the place of the Urim and Thummim, providing direction, revelation, and evidence of God’s presence.
The fullness of the record will no doubt also demonstrate Nephi’s exodus, Mosiah’s exodus and others all followed this pattern. The pattern always holds, though it is adapted to the time, place and circumstances of each covenant group.
As a covenant people, we can expect to participate in an exodus pattern at some point as well. But there will be something unique and unparalleled in all history concerning this final exodus to a city of holiness. Rather than a single set of sacred relics held by the leader on behalf of the whole group, we can instead each have our own. No, I don’t expect we will each have a Liahona. Rather, each of us can carry our own miraculous sacred relics in our own hands, covered in animal skins, adorned in gold, produced by curious workmanship, capable of giving us each direction and revelation, providing clear evidence of God’s presence with us. Such has never happened before in the history of this creation! We don’t need brass balls. We need the scriptures!
They are a sign.
They are a wonder.
They are sacred relics.
They are marvelous indeed.
May we ever guard them as such.